Wrapping Up the Semester at UNC Chapel Hill

By Justine Schnitzler, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

I can’t believe I’ve spent an entire semester working as NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s campus representative for UNC-Chapel Hill! It sounds cliché, but time really does fly when you’re having fun. I wanted to use my last blog post of the semester to reflect on my last few major projects, and give everyone a heads up on some of the work I am planning for next year!

First up: I hosted a very successful screening of TRAPPED, the new documentary about “TRAP” laws, which stand for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. After some scrambling to secure a screening room, several last-minute trips to Harris Teeter for snacks, and a bit of luck, the event went off without a hitch! The film itself was certainly sobering—we created a hashtag for viewers to tweet their reactions to the film, and most noted how simultaneously ridiculous and heartbreaking the laws are. Planning the TRAPPED event was difficult, but ultimately, we reached out to over forty people and collaborated with a new student group on UNC’s campus: UNC Nursing Students for Choice, organized by Laura Britton. I am eagerly looking forward to working with them again in the coming semester and year!

To finish the semester, I conducted an informal photo campaign aimed at destigmatizing abortion services and abortion care access. It was difficult to get enough folks together in one place, especially during finals season, but I ended up with some very kind and generous participants and great photos to share with both NARAL and all you readers! Check out some of the photos below!

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Justine Schnitzler, student and NARAL Pro-Choice NC Campus Leader at UNC-CH

Looking ahead to next year, I am in the preliminary planning stages for several awesome events. I hope to execute a large, campus-wide photo campaign; host an open panel for students on the topic of abortion care and access, in the context of the upcoming election; and work a successful fundraising event for the Carolina Abortion Fund! I am so ready to pick up my work with NARAL Pro-Choice NC in the fall, and I remain incredibly grateful for the chance to work with such an important organization.

Until next fall,

Justine

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

March Update from North Carolina State University

By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University

This Women’s History Month was quite eventful in terms of social justice-related happenings in North Carolina and around the country. This month, North Carolina saw the controversial House Bill 2 get signed into law; the biggest birth control case in 40 years hit the Supreme Court; and NC citizens demanded the expansion of medicaid. Needless to say, I have been busy here at NC State keeping students in the know on how these issues may affect them.

In 1996, March 10 was declared National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day to celebrate those who put their lives on the line to provide reproductive health services and abortion care. As this day falls nicely in Women’s History Month, I decided to organize an event surrounding the history of anti-choice violence and provider appreciation. I advertised this event as an opportunity for NC State students to show their appreciation for local abortion providers and meet other social justice-oriented students. The event started out with a presentation on the risks associated with being an abortion provider and why we ought to thank them as often as possible. Abortion providers around the country have been subject to over 300 acts of violence between 1973 and 2003 alone.

Since then, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) reported more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests). NAF has documented more than 16,000 reported cases of hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats. The United States has witnessed assassinations, bombings, and mass murders carried out at abortion clinics and on abortion providers. (This makes me wonder, who here is really “pro-life?”) This March, about 30 NC State students came together to let providers know that we will defend, love, and support them in any way possible. The students made a sizable pile of “thank you” cards, which will soon be sent off to local abortion providers. Overall, this event was fun and successful. I am so excited to send off these creative and genuine cards to local abortion providers!


Unfortunately, this Women’s History Month saw some less progressive policies fall into place in North Carolina. For one, House Bill 2, which effectively eliminated all LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinances in the state and forces transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to the sex noted on their birth certificate, was signed into law 3 weeks ago. Not only does HB2 roll back years of civil rights activism, it also is a direct blow to women’s rights. Now businesses in North Carolina can legally discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation, which will affect women across the state. Furthermore, As Representative Insko stated during this bill’s debate on the House floor, “This bill is ‘supposed to protect’ girls and women. This bill does NOT protect transgender girls or women.” HB2 increases the chances of bathroom harassment against trans individuals and demonizes trans women by deeming them perverts and predators.

 Since HB2 was passed, rallies and protests have been popping up all over the state.  Along with many members of Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE) at NC State, I took to the streets to protest this outrageous bill.


House Bill 2, being the regressive bill that it is, is a reproductive justice issue. Furthermore, if North Carolina legislators have no problem passing HB2, it’s likely they would have no problem introducing more anti-choice legislation during the upcoming legislative session. We must stop dangerous bills before they are signed into law and we must repeal HB2 before North Carolina legislators get any more “great ideas.”

This month, North Carolina policymakers have also been busy with plans of Medicaid reform. However, there has been little mention of Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is essential for women, notably women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as it provides critical family planning care, birth control, and even cancer screenings. In fact, half of Planned Parenthood patients are covered by Medicaid, and 1 in 10 women rely on Medicaid to receive life-saving healthcare

It is crucial to expand Medicaid to the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who may be in dire need of health care services. Fortunately, the folks working on Medicaid reform have been traveling the state, seeking input from the citizens of North Carolina. When they came to Raleigh, other students and I accompanied Planned Parenthood volunteers to show our support for Medicaid expansion. Many of us shared our personal Medicaid stories, while also applauding those who spoke up in defense of Medicaid expansion.


While it’s been a busy month here in North Carolina, I am constantly inspired by the persistent and powerful young activists fighting for change every day. I am confident that North Carolina will continue to grow and move in the right direction, so as long as we are unrelenting in our activism. In the end, it is the power of the people that will prevail over bigotry and hatred.

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

March/Early April Update from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

By Justine Schnitzler, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What a busy few weeks it has been! Beyond the huge amounts of homework (the semester is quickly coming to an end!), there have been so many activities and events to plan with NARAL Pro-Choice NC that I have barely had a moment to update all of you lovely readers on the blog. Here’s hoping this satiates your curiosity!

After a few weeks of intense planning, I am excited to announce that TONIGHT (April 11) UNC-Chapel Hill is screening the documentary Trapped. As a NARAL Pro-Choice NC representative, I have collaborated with Students United for Reproductive Justice (another awesome group on campus) and a new organization, Nursing Students for Choice. I am so excited about the collaboration with NSC—they are just getting started as a student organization on campus, and I am especially eager to fill the screening room with individuals working on degrees relating to the healthcare field. Be on the lookout for photos and updates from the screening in my next post!

Beyond the planning for Trapped, I worked in the last week with a wide array of incredible, dedicated students across campus to counter-protest to virulently anti-choice group, “Genocide Awareness Project”. In case you aren’t aware of what GAP is, they are a for-profit group that takes enormous displays of manipulated photographs of fetuses, juxtaposed with images of real genocide and violence (think the Holocaust, or Rwanda) and sets them up on public university campuses for days at a time.

My awesome boss, Sarah, donated a large amount of NARAL Pro-Choice NC supplies for tabling, and students took turns handing out condoms, balloons, and pro-choice signs to those walking past. By the end of the day, a large group of pro-choice individuals were dancing and singing along to the amazing playlist we created as a group—blasting speakers and drowning out the hatred. It was an incredible experience to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many powerful students who were dedicated to the pro-choice cause. UNC sent a clear message that GAP’s graphic, dishonest imagery has no place on our campus. Check out some photos from our counter-protest below:

 

Until next time!

Justine

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your college or university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

February Update from North Carolina State University

By Leah Block, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at North Carolina State University

My first month as the NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Campus Leader for NC State has been exciting and engaging, to say the least. Being at a more conservative school, I was expecting some pushback from my fellow peers. To my surprise, I have only had positive interactions with my peers on the topic of reproductive justice. It is clear that the tides are turning in women’s favor, but there is still much work to be done.

The best thing about going to a big school is that there is never a shortage of interesting events, speakers, or activities happening around campus. I had the pleasure of representing NARAL Pro-Choice NC at Dr. Joni Frater and Esther Lastique’s “Sex Ed Boot Camp,” which provides students with factual and reliable information on sexual health related topics. College students are a smart bunch, but many come to school with little to no knowledge on sexual health, reproductive rights, and so on. With so many schools in NC teaching abstinence-only sex education, how can we expect students to know about their reproductive rights, let alone sexual rights? At this event, I talked to students about their reproductive rights and resources here in NC. I discussed what NARAL stands for as an organization, and asked students to take the pledge to stand up to the stigma surrounding abortion. I was met with very positive and reaffirming reactions.

February is a great month to talk about sexual health and reproductive rights for it is the month of love, after all! That being said, NARAL Pro-Choice NC and NC State student group P.L.E.A.S.E (Positive, Loving, Empowered Advocates for Sexual Education) teamed up this month to advocate for sexual health and reproductive justice. We spent a full day tabling and flyering in the brickyard– an area on campus with heavy student traffic– talking to students about sexual-health related issues. I had engaging conversations with students about comprehensive sex-ed, abortion waiting periods, and the current political climate of the US. Students appeared very passionate about the issues discussed, and were excited to show their support in the fight against the stigma surrounding abortion. By the end of the day, I was almost completely out of NARAL buttons, and had filled the majority of my petition papers.

Perhaps the biggest recent event regarding reproductive rights was the first set of oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This case, which will decide whether abortion clinics can stay open across Texas, was brought to the Supreme Court this month. The case will decide whether HB-2, the law that closed abortion clinics across Texas, will remain or be overturned. Prior to HB-2 about 70,000 women received abortion care annually in Texas. Now, abortion providers in Texas can only provide about 14,000 abortions per year. In addition, if HB-2 remains in place, many Texan women will be forced to travel up to 150 miles to locate the nearest abortion clinic.

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Leah Block, left, and Kelsey Ward, right, at SCOTUS for the Rally to Protect Abortion Access

Is abortion really even a right if it is inaccessible? As Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Heeding King’s words, on March 2nd I and thousands of other pro-choice activists took to the streets of DC to voice our support for Whole Woman’s Health. I rallied support from fellow NC State Students and we made the journey up to DC bright and early on March 2nd. Rallying in front of the Supreme Court building, we listened to many inspirational speakers such as abortion providers, clinic escorts, and women who have received abortion care. We chanted over the hateful rhetoric of anti-choicers who stationed themselves directly adjacent to us, many of which attempted to shame the women around them.

Witnessing anti-choice shaming tactics firsthand served as a reminder that the work I and so many others are doing doing is not only important, it is life-saving. Not only are women being harassed for receiving medical care, but the US is now seeing a rise in physical violence and even domestic terrorism as a result of anti-choice rhetoric. As we saw in the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, some anti-choicers truly believe that women receiving medical care are not deserving of life. It is on each and every one of us to combat this awful notion, and I implore whoever is reading this to speak out the stigma surrounding abortion.

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.

February Update from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

By Justine Schnitzler, Spring 2016 Campus Leader at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Hello, all!

My name is Justine Schnitzler, and I am serving as NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s Campus Leader for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am so excited to work with NARAL in the coming months and semesters, and excited to share my experiences with all of you! To give you a bit of background on myself—I am a junior double majoring in History and Women’s and Gender Studies, a proud Tar Heel, and a future lawyer. I have been actively involved with reproductive justice since my first year of college, and currently write for UNC’s feminist journal, the Siren.

This has been my first month “on the job”, and I have mostly utilized the time to start

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Nicole lam, left, and Justine Schnitzler, left, at the Moral March

organizing what events I want to host on my campus this semester. However, there were some particularly bright spots: after all of the paperwork, I had the opportunity to participate in the Historic Thousands on Jones Street March (HKonJ) on February 13th with my supervisor, Sarah. I had to get up early to make the campus bus to Raleigh, and was certainly not thrilled to realize once outside that it was twenty-seven degrees! However, the excitement of the march soon erased any disdain for the cold—it was an honor and a privilege to march alongside hundreds of others who shared my passion and commitment to a variety of social issues, especially relating to reproductive healthcare.

A second neat event I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of was addressing thank-you cards for abortion providers. This was my first NARAL event I’ve planned as a campus organizer, and I had a blast! I recruited members of my aforementioned feminist journal, the Siren, as well as members of other social justice groups on campus. When it was all said and done, we filled out enough cards to stuff an envelope and share our gratitude with the individuals working so hard to help Americans exercise reproductive choice.

I also wanted to give a shout out to my amazing supervisor, Sarah—who traveled to DC with NARAL to rally at the Supreme Court for the first day of oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, an incredibly important case that will determine the application of Roe v. Wade for Americans in the coming months, years, and decades. This case seeks to establish the standard for “undue burden” placed on reproductive health clinics by conservative state legislators. It is an amazing feeling to be connected to an organization so visibly committed to rallying behind choice. Side note—I did my best to get to the Supreme Court myself, but unfortunately, seasonal allergies knocked me off my feet for a bit!

For the month of March, I have several exciting events planned for my peers at UNC-Chapel Hill, including a screening of the important new documentary Trapped, and a collaborative event with Students United for Reproductive Justice.

Thank you so much for reading my updates, and stay tuned for my next blog post!

In solidarity,

Justine

To apply to be a Campus Leader at your university, e-mail our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.